Technology Path to the Future

RT-TC-04 Topic Summary
RT TC 04


CII’s Technology Committee designed the “Technology Path to the Future” initiative to inspire a technological step-change in the capital projects industry, and it created Research Team TC-04 (RT-TC-04) to make it happen. The team focused on innovations that can improve performance in the long term. By the year 2050, most of the infrastructure standing today will have been refurbished or replaced, and an entirely new generation of professionals will lead the industry. CII’s charge to RT-TC-04 was ambitious: envision the future of the capital projects industry with a vigor that challenges that industry to think boldly. To this end, RT-TC-04 carried out a series of innovation workshops and brainstorming sessions with next-gen rising stars and established industry leaders.

Final Report TC-04 (FR-TC-04) presents the Challenge Teams Program. RT-TC-04 developed the program in two phases:

  • Divergent Phase – During divergence, the team tapped into the wisdom and diversity of the crowd. It carefully designed two innovation workshops that targeted participants who were unencumbered by past experience in the capital projects industry. The workshops overcame two central cruxes of transdisciplinary crowdsourcing:
    1. Ensuring participation.
    2. Ensuring coordinated focus, in this case on capital projects innovation.

The team used these workshops to generate and collect ideas about compelling drivers of change, as well as identifying new and exciting technological trajectories.

  • Convergent Phase – During convergence, RT-TC-04 aggregated the collected information and synthesized it into a Viable Paths Framework in consultation with the Technology Committee. The team used the Viable Paths Framework to generate ambitious objectives and chart viable paths to their achievement.

Throughout its development of the Challenge Teams Program, RT-TC-04 remained cognizant that severe capital constraints are the reality of organizations in this industry. Therefore, its primary practical consideration was to limit the investment of time and capital it required from each innovator it invited to participate. To this end, the Challenge Teams Program had at its center the Innovation Sprint.

Each Innovation Sprint involved a short time commitment and required no travel or capital expenditure. During a Sprint, the host set up a temporary innovation environment where a challenge team could immerse itself in an intense innovation activity guided by the Viable Paths Framework. The deliverable of each Sprint was a slide document consistent with the Viable Paths Framework.

The team performed a trial run of the program, assembling five challenge teams and conducting five Innovation Sprints. The results demonstrated a substantial departure from the incrementalism that typically surrounds innovation in the capital projects industry. Ultimately, this research demonstrated that experienced practitioners are not only capable of radical innovation – they actually enjoy thinking in this way. Finally, RT-TC-04 issued a vision board that summarizes and celebrates the innovative ideas it gathered through the initial Challenge Teams Program.

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : Participation in Innovation Requires a Compelling Vision

RT-TC-04 designed and iterated a brainstorming workshop to motivate participation without offering compensation. Through this process, the team identified principles for thoughtful innovation that answer the following questions (FR-TC-04):

  • Why does a company need to adopt new technology? (Section 2.1, Growth, on p. 3)
  • How do we find the innovators in a company? (Section 2.2.2, Thoughtful Innovation, on p. 6)
  • How can we instill a feeling of urgency in our change initiatives? (Section 2.2.2 subsection, Compelling Drivers of Change, also on p. 6; Section 3, Divergent Thinking: Mars Industries, on p. 10)
  • What does it mean to think from first principles and why is it important? (Section 2.2.2 subsection, A New Perspective, on p. 7)
Reference: (FR-TC-04)

2 : Focus during Innovation Requires a Framework

RT-TC-04 discovered that the quality of ideas shared during brainstorming workshops improved with imposition of a stringent framework (FR-TC-04, Section 3.1.2, Iteration Two, on p. 14). To help the challenge teams pursue their innovation activities, the team provided a “Viable Paths Framework” (Section 4.5, The Viable Paths Framework, on p. 24).

Reference: (FR-TC-04)

3 : Twelve Technology Enablers

The team parsed the more than 1,500 individual innovation ideas it collected from the brainstorming workshops, distilling them into 12 fundamental productivity and efficiency enablers (FR-TC-04, Section 4.3, Technology Enablers, on p. 22):

  1. Transparency and Trust
  2. Fast and Reliable Payments
  3. Equipment and Facility Modularization
  4. Component Standardization
  5. Information Systems Interoperability
  6. User Interfaces
  7. Forecasting and Simulation Fidelity
  8. Detailed Engineering and Planning
  9. Sensors and State Awareness
  10. Automation
  11. Workforce and Community Wellness
  12. Environmental Sustainability
Reference: (FR-TC-04)

4 : Challenge Teams Vision Board

RT-TC-04 performed a trial run of the CII Challenge Teams Program in its entirety by using five challenge teams. Each challenge team focused on a unique challenge in the capital projects industry, developed its own vision for the future, and contributed to a total of 78 slides of brainstormed material. RT-TC-04 combined many of these ideas into a vision board that depicts a truly bold and exciting picture of what our industry could look like in 30 years (FR-TC-04, Section 5.2, Challenges Teams Vision Board; Figure 11).

Reference: (FR-TC-04)

Key Performance Indicators

Research Publications

Challenge Teams: An Innovative Path to the Future - FR-TC-04

Publication Date: 07/2020 Type: Final Report Pages: 40 Status: Supporting Product